Part Two of the Yearly Reading Roundup (in which I write mini reviews)

I decided to cover the epic highs and lows of my 2021 reading year through writing mini reviews! Part one may be found here.

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian

agjsd;l I didn’t realize until just now that this is the third Arthurian story I read in a row. Anyway this one was Very Bad and I have yet to find an Arthurian retelling that encapsulates the sheer unhinged and fun quality that the legends have, although I do remember loving The Squire’s Tale as a kid. This was like…bad characters with no depth to them, pretty unfeminist feminism (I’m still kind of salty about the ‘magic starts with menstruation’ thing, like can trans women/women who can’t menstruate not do magic in this universe or am I taking this too literally?? Also, don’t forget Guinevere getting pressured into a marriage by our wonderful heroine), corsets that are the root of all evil…And also it was really hokey. Werewolf Guinevere is going to haunt me. I’m sure you get the picture.

Full review here. Also on Goodreads some weird lady got pissed and called me childish for this review?? And then she rated the book three stars and said it wasn’t that great??? People on Goodreads are bizarre.

A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson

This was somehow worse than Half Sick of Shadows. And it wasn’t even a real Dracula retelling. Amazing.

Full review here.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

This was…interesting? But kind of forgettable at the same time? Idk, I enjoyed the mystery of what on earth is going on with those little kids, but I think the ending was overly abrupt and I didn’t really like it. I’ve got mixed feelings!

The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan

This was so cool and interesting?? It’s a defense of women written in the fifteenth century, so you know, I was all over this one. It’s deeply weird and definitely not written from a modern viewpoint at all, and it was just a really fascinating read.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Hmm, so I’ve finally had it happen where a childhood favorite just wasn’t as good as I thought it was. Oh well, more fodder for fanfic I’m probably never going to publish. I just HATE when I hyperfixate on a bad book though, which yes, I am currently hyperfixating on Harry Potter for some reason. At least I’m getting writing practice out of it, though.

Okay, since nobody asked, allow me to discuss a few Harry Potter headcanons of mine:

Headcanon I actually believe: Sirius Black is aroace (or possibly very gay for James! I’m open to either interpretation)

Headcanon that I must believe or else I succumb to the depths of despair: Snape and Lily were platonic *sobs in the misogyny that was the whole Snily vs. Jily thing* (No seriously the way Lily was handled in regards to both James and Snape was so misogynist. Why can’t we stop getting mad about James vs. Snape and start getting mad about how Lily only existed to be a conduit for two men’s character development and–there are multiple rants I could write about Lily, I’d better stop now)

Headcanon I think is really funny: God. Everything about the Black family. Sirius Black rebelling against his family by going to church and listening to Mozart and it WORKS because church and Mozart are muggle. Their dad asking Sirius loudly if he enjoys rubbing shoulders with the plebians every time they have to go somewhere (MY GRANDPA DID THIS, as a side note). That family is so weird and trashy and they live in my head rent-free.

Headcanon that is all of the above: Marcus Flint and Oliver Wood were actually dating, they just got SUPER competitive on the quidditch field. We never find out about this because it wasn’t relevant to Harry’s story ❤

Anyway yeah unfortunately this book is trash. Ultra unfortunately, it’s the kind of trash with expansive worldbuilding and a few really good ideas that gets the hyperfixation gears turning

Uh…I kind of ended up writing two reviews for this book lmao because I wrote one a while back, when I hadn’t read the book in years, and then I reread the book and realized I was irritated enough that I had to write an updated one with my thoughts lmao.

White Smoke by Tiffany Jackson

The twist was hokey and the ending was super abrupt?? What was up with that? Also I simply think that the mom should have divorced her husband, but whatever

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

This one was a TREAT. I loved the worldbuilding, and the main character is so down to earth, it’s great. They’re just such a normal person thrown into a very not-normal situation, and I love them. Also, it has DRAGON ROBOTS. The ending was a bit out of nowhere but honestly, I didn’t mind. Dragon robots, guys.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

I have found one of my new favorite books. The prose is beautiful and gets under your skin. The heroine seems normal only for you to realize that she’s just as unsettling as the house she’s staying in. The HOUSE. I know it’s evil, but I too find myself strangely drawn to it. Just. God, I wish I could write like this.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

*sigh* Round two went much the same as the first, except this time the pacing was worse and Snape and Malfoy were much more poorly written. The only interesting part of this book was Tom Riddle, and then the author underutilized Tom Riddle. Why couldn’t these books have been about Tom Riddle?

(I mean, thank God they weren’t about Tom Riddle, because then we would have been thrown headfirst into Even More Ableist Bullshit than whatever that was in the sixth book, but I digress)

Full review here

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

*cries in why couldn’t this have been as good as its amazing premise*

Full review here

The Lais of Marie de France by Marie de France

THIS WAS SO GOOD OH MY GOD IT HAS EVERYTHING. IT HAS GAY WEREWOLVES, IT HAS SHAPESHIFTING HAWK BOYFRIENDS, IT HAS HOT FEY GIRLFRIENDS WHO SWEEP IN TO SAVE THE DAY EACH TIME. IT’S AMAZING AND YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY READ IT.

(Also, when I saw gay werewolves, I don’t mean it literally lmao, it’s just that I think it’s easy to headcanon him that way. I don’t want to raise any false hopes)

Full review here

Medea by Euripides

Medea did nothing wrong. She killed her kids, you say? Well what if the kids had bad vibes? I think you people just hate to see a girlboss winning.

Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

This was so cute!! In which an autistic girl and the revenant that’s possessing her attempt to save their country from the monsters trying to destroy it. (It’s not stated on page because it’s a medieval fantasy, but it’s heavily implied that she’s autistic, which makes me very happy). Anyway, things go wrong because the girl and the revenant only share one braincell. It’s great.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

This was good, but unfortunately the prose could have used more polishing, and I definitely think it should have been middle grade. The worldbuilding was pretty creative, though! I loved the ghost mammoth.

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

The portrayal of ADHD and abuse was pretty good, although there was some weird stuff in there about home remedying ADHD away, which. What. PLEASE inform me if any of you guys have ADHD and find home remedies useful for you, because I have never heard of this and my mom is into all sorts of herbal medicine stuff?? And I also didn’t like a few weird comments that were made about patients in mental hospitals. There was also some unfortunate misogyny, especially toward Camila, the black female character, and just…hmm. I really liked the portrayal of abuse, though, the main characters were well-developed, and aside from a few weird lines, the ADHD rep was pretty good? I just have mixed feelings toward this one, I guess.

Rewriting Medieval Japanese Women: Politics, Personality, and Literary Production in the Life of Nun Abutsu by Christina Laffin

This was so interesting! I love reading about historical women, and I love reading literary criticism, so this was right up my alley!

Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell

Okay I did not expect the writing style to be this good! A few stories were slower than others, but the ones that were good were REALLY good.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

This was really something else. Spooky and weird and wonderful and…somewhat lesbian? How this got published in the 1800s I do not know, but the book is a fun read and a wild ride! Fair warning, if you attempt a drinking game in which you take a shot every time the word ‘languid’ or ‘melancholy’ is used, you will end up with liver poisoning by the end.

Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

This had a slow start, but I ended up really enjoying it by the end! It’s probably not my favorite book ever, but it’s solidly enjoyable, and that’s a lot more than can be said for other books I’ve read this year (oops I did not start this out intending to be bitter). Full review here

The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

THIS WAS NOT SOLIDLY ENJOYABLE. HOW DO YOU TAKE LOKI AND ANGRBODA AND MAKE THEM A) ANNOYING AND B) HAVE NORMAL BORING MARRIAGE PROBLEMS. WHAT WAS UP WITH THIS. OOH, HE JUST CAN’T COMMIT TO ME AND THE KIDS! SHUT UP, I DON’T CARE. IF I WANTED TO READ ABOUT SOME GUY WITH COMMITMENT ISSUES I WOULD READ SOME BOOK ABOUT THE TRIALS AND DESPAIRS OF LIVING IN THE SUBURBS.

Someday I will find a good Arthuriana retelling, but apparently not in 2021! I haven’t been reading as much so far this year, but I am slowly making my way through Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio and Winter’s Orbit. They’re both pretty good so far, even though I’m not too far into Winter’s Orbit yet. I’ve also been working pretty steadily on my fanfic? Hopefully I’ll finally defeat my ADHD-induced writer’s block once and for all, lol.

10 thoughts on “Part Two of the Yearly Reading Roundup (in which I write mini reviews)

  1. oh no, i’m so sorry to see that you really disliked a dowry of blood! i’ve been really excited for it but i guess i should lower my expectations a bit now haha. i’m glad that you enjoyed elatsoe for the most part, though, i’ve been wanting to read it for so long!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was really looking forward to A Dowry of Blood and then it spit on my hopes and dreams 😭 I hope you like it, though! Elatsoe was really cute!! It had ghosts of prehistoric animals in it and if that’s not enough to sell me on a book, I don’t know what is.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, I read Elatsoe last year! I had kind of forgotten about it until you mentioned it. I liked a lot of the world-building and such, but yeah, I do think it could have been more polished.
    I read A List of Cages a few years ago and…do I remember anything about it? Maybe like 12%? I know i had some issues with it, but the main thing I remember is that I loved Julian. He was a DEAR.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It sounds like we’ve got pretty much the same opinion on both these books, lol! Yeah A List of Cages was kind of meh in spots, but Julian was just great. I really, really liked him. So I mean, I definitely don’t regret reading it and in fact would probably read it again, but there were also a lot of things I disliked, you know? It’s one of those books.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The lesson here is that you need to write your Arthuriana so that the world has some /good/ Arthurian retellings in it. (And so I can meet your Guinevere and Mordred and Gawain.) (And so I can just read more of your writing in general.)

    Loki having boring marital problems is…not the Loki content I signed up for.
    (It intrigues me to come across stories that are just modern-realistic-novels transplanted into fantasy. Like, you the author clearly aren’t interested in the fantasy part, so why did you make it a fantasy at all? I honestly don’t understand.)

    Vespertine sounds adorable. I was hesitant for some reason (not sure why, Margaret Rogerson hasn’t failed me yet???), but now I definitely want to read it.

    Also, HISTORY IS THE BEST. Kinda-obscure historical documents are also the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, that means a lot to me *blushes* I really hope I can finish it so you can meet Guinevere and Mordred and Gawain as well!!!

      I KNOW. Yeah I’ll sometimes run into fantasy like that?? It baffles me too. Like why didn’t you just write the trials and despairs of the suburbs if that’s what you’re into? It’s a shame, because I actually was enjoying how the author incorporated Norse mythology at first–it seemed pretty respectful to the myths, like the author actually enjoyed the mythology instead of just wanting to milk it for a cash cow–but then it took a nose dive. Also I think I really don’t like the Norse gods getting treated the same as Greek gods in the narrative?? As in, I’m not really as interested in takedowns of the Norse gods for being problematic or whatever? I don’t want people to gloss over the bad things they did, either, but I’m just not really into a straight-up vilification. I’m down for a narrative that says that Zeus is a bad guy! I’m not down for a narrative that says the same thing about Odin! Odin is just a guy, you know? He does bad things. He does good things.

      I thought Vespertine was so cute!! A lot of Margaret Rogerson’s stuff honestly reminds me of the fantasy I loved when I was a kid, so I get to have something that feels super nostalgic while ALSO having the joy of discovering something completely new!

      YOU GET ME. I love history.

      Liked by 1 person

      • SAME about Norse vs Greek gods. I don’t really know why either?? I just really enjoy the amorality of a lot of Norse heroes, and Odin especially is like. Very much just a guy. Doing weird things that are sometimes cool and sometimes just very, very weird. But I’m not interested in portraying any of them, Loki included, as /villains/.
        Whereas Zeus IS a villain in tiny-child-me’s opinion (like I HATED Zeus with every part of my SOUL – and still kinda do? 🤣) and reading the Iliad didn’t do much to soften that opinion. So casting Zeus as your villain pleases me, honestly. Plus something about the Greek pantheon in general, I’m more okay with delineating various gods into “good guy” and “bad guy.”
        Interesting that you feel the same! I honestly had never consciously thought about it before.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes you described it perfectly! I like Loki, I like Odin, I like Tyr and Thor and Freya and Frigg! They may do bad things sometimes, but I just can’t see them as villains. The Greek gods, on the other hand…Oh boy. I don’t even know where to START. They do a lot of bad things and honestly sometimes authors who try too hard to gloss over the bad things they did annoys me! But yeah, with the Norse gods, no. They’re my babies. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Greek myths too, but basically every Greek god is something of a dirtbag. A compelling dirtbag, but still. *hides before any Greek gods find me and smite me*)

          Liked by 1 person

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